FPIES: A Diagnosis, not a Definition
Nichole L. Huff, Ph.D., CFLE
As Thanksgiving Day draws near, Facebook and other social media outlets are abuzz with people sharing blessings in their lives. For things both big and small, people are talking about thankfulness. For parents of children with FPIES, however, the anticipation of Thanksgiving may conjure up more fear than gratitude. The #1 worry? Protecting your child from an endless array of food prepared with unknown ingredients. (And subsequent fears, such as being around people who may not understand why they can’t give your child “just one bite” of pumpkin pie or green bean casserole.)
Whether it’s Thanksgiving Day—or any other day of the year—for parents of children with FPIES, it’s hard to stop worrying. Which is why it’s all the more important that we, too, stop to regularly reflect on our blessings.
The Importance of Thankfulness
Research shows that being thankful is crucial for one’s mental health. One study examining how gratitude affects emotional well-being found that those who frequently “counted their blessings” were less likely to suffer from depression and were more likely to exercise, help others, and achieve personal goals. The participants who regularly wrote down their blessings also exhibited more energy and were more optimistic than those who didn’t specifically reflect on being grateful.
This study is just one of many supporting the positive effects of thankfulness. Because FPIES, however, defines so much of what we do each day, as an “FPIES parent” it can be difficult to remember that FPIES is a diagnosis, not a definition—for you or your child. Depending on your child’s age, triggers, and stage of allergy management, it can be easy for you to count your blessings in “allergy speak” (e.g., successful food trials, severity of food fails, etc.). But like other parents who manage a child’s around-the-clock condition, our constant focus on all-things-FPIES makes us more susceptible to conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Gratitude and FPIES
As an FPIES community, let’s use the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday to remind us to count our blessings. Our non-FPIES-related blessings. So I ask you, what are you thankful for today? Big or small. I’ll start…
Today I’m thankful for a quiet house and the warm sunlight shining on my face as I write this blog entry. I’m thankful for the teachers who are caring for my kids while I work. I’m thankful for my family’s sweet back-and-forth text messages now commenting on a recording of my four-year-old practicing “Jingle Bell Rock” for his upcoming holiday performance. And I’m thankful for the earworm that’s now stuck in my head! Because it reminds me of the little boy singing it—a little boy whom I love with every ounce of my being.
 Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687
Nichole Langley Huff is an assistant professor and Extension Specialist at North Carolina State University. Dr. Huff has a Ph.D. in Family Sciences and a M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a Certified Family Life Educator with the National Council on Family Relations. Her areas of research include child development, parent-child communication, and bio-psycho-social health. Dr. Huff also has a weekly parenting blog at http://soapboxmommy.com/